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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Environmentalists Say Legislation Won't Remove All Obstacles to Holcomb Power Plant

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Opponents of a coal-fired power plant planned for southwest Kansas say developers still face obstacles in completing the project despite legislation approved by the U.S. House. Kansas congressman Tim Huelskamp inserted language removing one level of federal oversight of the project planned by Sunflower Electric Power Corporation. The Hays-based company wants to build a second coal-fired unit at its Holcomb power plant. Three-fourths of the energy generated by the second unit would be reserved for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, of Westminster, Colorado. Environmentalists said Tuesday the project still faces other obstacles from Kansas courts and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as new renewable energy standards imposed by Colorado on Tri-State.


Audit of Kansas Death Penalty Costs Rejected

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas legislator who opposes capital punishment won't get the study he wants of the costs of the death penalty. House Republican Steven Becker is a retired trial judge from Buhler. He has introduced legislation to repeal the death penalty statute and sought an audit of its costs. Kansas Public Radio reports the Legislative Post Audit Committee decided Tuesday against pursuing Becker's request. The committee's vice chair, Senator Jeff Longbine, says there aren't enough resources to approve all requested audits. But Longbine also says a death penalty audit could be considered in the future. Kansas has not performed any executions since reinstating capital punishment in 1994. Becker wants to know how much capital cases cost the state and local governments, and how much could be saved by eliminating the death sentence.


Dole, Eisenhower Join Governor's 2014 Re-Election Team

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former Senator Bob Dole and the granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower have agreed to serve as honorary leaders of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's re-election team for 2014. The Republican governor announced Tuesday that Dole and Mary Jean Eisenhower will be the national co-chairmen of his campaign. Kansas Democratic Party spokesman Dakota Loomis said the announcement isn't surprising, calling it "dog bites man news." Dole, who served in the Senate from 1969 until he resigned in 1996 for an unsuccessful run for president, celebrated his 90th birthday on Monday. Mary Jean Eisenhower is the president of the Board of Directors for the People to People International, a Kansas City, Missouri-based humanitarian organization founded by her grandfather. Brownback was first elected in 2010, defeating Democratic state Senator Tom Holland.


Topeka Bank Account Cards Compromised

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — About 500 credit card accounts with a Topeka-based bank have been compromised. WIBWNewsNow reports that CoreFirst Bank and Trust says about 500 of its customers' credit cards have been fraudulently used at a local business. CoreFirst Bank would not identify the business or how the breach may have occurred. CoreFirst Bank has banks in Kansas and Colorado. One customer says her card was being run in a different state, and that authorities caught the transaction in time and cancelled the card.


Kansas Doctor Found Guilty of Criminal Contempt

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has found a Kansas doctor guilty of criminal contempt of court for misbehaving during her first court appearance on charges related to a $7 million Army fraud and bribery indictment. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson sentenced 50-year-old Heidi Lynn Webster of Manhattan to 30 days in jail on top of any sentence she receives in a Texas case that charges her with medical equipment contract fraud. Documents filed Monday contend Webster repeatedly "spoke loudly" and interrupted the judge during Friday's hearing in Topeka. The judge says Webster's outbursts prevented the court from advising her of the charges or her rights. Her attorney did not immediately return a phone message. Webster, a former Army physician, is the owner of MRI Resources Incorporated, and Pro Veteran Staffing Incorporated.


Failed Corn, Sorghum Crops Reported in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Spotty rain showers across much of Kansas this past week were not enough to improve drought conditions in western Kansas. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that dryland farm crops and pastures continue to suffer. The agency says it has received reports of failed corn and sorghum crops in areas missed by the rain, as well as fields damaged by hail or wind. The corn crop's condition has declined with 30 percent considered in poor to very poor shape. About 39 percent is rated fair, 28 percent is good and 3 percent is in excellent condition. Sorghum crops also are hurting, with 21 percent reported in poor to very poor condition. About 43 percent is rated as fair, 34 percent as good and 2 percent as excellent.


Kansas Regulators Considering New Fracking Disclosure Rules

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas utility regulators are considering new rules to require oil and natural gas companies to disclose some information about the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The Topeka Capital Journal reports the Kansas Corporation Commission outlined the proposed rules to legislators on Monday. The KCC also plans a public hearing August 10th in Wichita on the proposals. The rules would require companies to disclose the chemicals they use in fracking with water under high pressure to crack open rock formations and release oil and natural gas. The information would have to be listed on a KCC database or an online industry database. Companies could avoid some disclosures if their chemicals were a trade secret. Environmentalists said the rules don't go far enough.

Explosives Regulations Upset Some Industry Leaders

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Fire Marshal is drawing fire for his efforts to reinstate oversight of the explosive industry in the state. The fire marshal lost legal authority to issue permits to explosive industry operators in 2010, when an assistant attorney general mistakenly deleted the authority for the agency to do so. Temporary rules were imposed June 28. On Monday, Fire Marshal Doug Jorgensen told a Kansas legislative committee the problem could be permanently fixed by adopting the latest edition of the National Fire Protection Association's explosive materials code. However, industry representatives told the committee the rules were too complicated. And they said they had expected to have input into the new rule book. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a public hearing on the rules is scheduled for September 11.

Kansas Agencies Hosting Emergency Preparedness Summit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Emergency management officials from across Kansas are convening this week for a two-day summit on disaster preparedness. The conference opens Friday at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel in Wichita. Sponsors include the Kansas Division of Emergency Management and the state Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Topics range from strategic planning and psychological first aid to managing volunteers and responding to human-caused tragedies. The summit is geared for emergency management and human services professionals, first responders, experts in animal health and nonprofit organizations.

Kansas Group Plans Seminar on Violence in Workplace

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas advocacy group is planning a one-day seminar for businesses and human resources officers on domestic violence in the workplace. The Kansas Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence will hold the conference July 31 in Topeka. Experts will offer advice on how to spot the signs of stalking or domestic and sexual violence in the workplace. The seminar will also provide training in how to respond to incidents of stalking or violence and how to create safety plans. Other sponsors are Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas and the Topeka affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management.


2 Schools Heavily Damaged in Southern Kansas Storm

ARGONIA, Kan. (AP) — The school year could start later than planned in a south-central Kansas district after a powerful storm caused extensive damage to two buildings. KAKE-TV reports that parts of the roofs were torn from the elementary school and the junior-senior high school in Argonia late Monday afternoon. Several homes in the Sumner County community also had roof damage. Argonia superintendent Julie Dolley says classes are scheduled to begin August 21, but she's not sure the cleanup can be finished by then. Parts of the ceilings at the schools caved in, allowing heavy rain to pour into the buildings. The storm pounded Argonia and nearby towns for nearly half an hour with hail, rain and straight-line winds of 60 to 70 mph.


Threat Leads to Federal Drug Charges Against 3

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Three northwest Missouri residents are facing federal drug charges after one of them called police to his home because one of the others was threatening him. Prosecutors say 50-year-old Glenn DiFalco, 44-year-old Clarissa Cooper and 29-year-old Anthony Grayson, all of Excelsior Springs, were charged Monday with conspiracy to manufacture 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. According to court documents, Grayson called the Ray County sheriff's office on July 16 and said DiFalco was threatening him. Investigators reported finding nearly 80,000 pseudoephedrine hydrochloride pills inside DiFalco's pickup as well as items used to make meth in the house the three shared. Prosecutors say they also found a "booby-trap" device inside the home. None of them had obtained an attorney as of Tuesday afternoon.


Kansas Man Pleads Guilty to Internet Sex Crime

LARNED, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has pleaded guilty to committing an Internet sex crime while he was confined as a sexual predator at the Larned State Hospital. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom's office announced Monday that 38-year-old Mark David Brull and a co-defendant admitted victimizing a 14-year-old Massachusetts boy. Brull pleaded guilty to one count of the transfer of obscene materials to a minor. Prosecutors said Brull used a phone in a common area to call a service that let him to create an email with a voice recording attachment. His co-defendant, 40-year-old Ryan J. Dancosse of Wichita, uploaded pornographic images to Brull's accounts, which were sent to the victim. Dancosse pleaded guilty to one count of receiving child pornography. Both men will be sentenced in October.

Man Pleads No Contest in KU Dorm Assault

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 20-year-old man will be sentenced in August after pleading no contest to an assault on a female student at a University of Kansas dormitory. Jeremy R. Ruzas was arrested in February after a 19-year-old Kansas student report she had been assaulted in her room at Oliver Hall. Prosecutors said Ruzas entered the woman's room uninvited and was drinking before the woman's friends made him leave. But he returned later and assaulted the woman while she was in bed. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Ruzas was initially charged with aggravated sexual battery and burglary but pleaded no contest Monday to aggravated battery. Ruzas left the university after his arrest.

Water Emergency Declared in Independence

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (AP) — The city of Independence, Kansas has declared a water emergency after a powerful thunderstorm knocked out power to the local treatment plant. Officials told The Independence Daily Reporter it could be 18 hours before Westar Energy can repair the damage caused by the storm around 8 am Monday in the southeastern Kansas community. The outage occurred when a possible microburst toppled a pole that supports transformers and power lines that supply the water treatment plant. City officials were working to shut down heavy water users such as fast-food restaurants, while nursing homes and industries were being asked to conserve water. More than 3 inches of rain fell Monday morning.

KC Water Service Employee Dies in Accident

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say a water department employee died when a sewer line he was working on exploded and filled with sewage. Police say 40-year-old Donald Fenton was working alone Monday when the accident happened. He was repairing a valve inside the pipe, which descended 15 feet into the ground. The Kansas City Star reports that Fenton's co-workers ran to the manhole after hearing the explosion and tried unsuccessfully to find him. They used a backhoe to break the bottom of the main line to release the sewage and then used a rope to pull Fenton from the manhole. Fenton had suffered serious injuries to his face and neck and was pronounced him dead at the scene. The cause of the explosion is still under investigation.


Judge Delays Sentencing in Kansas Hunting Camp Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has delayed the resentencing of two Texas brothers convicted of running a Kansas hunting camp where hunters paid thousands of dollars to illegally shoot deer. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot postponed the sentencing of James and Marlin Butler from Aug. 28 to Sept. 23 following a hearing Monday. The Butlers, of Martinsville, Texas, ran Camp Lone Star near Coldwater. James Butler was sentenced in 2011 to 41 months in prison plus $50,000 in fines and restitution. His brother was sentenced to 27 months plus $20,000 in fines and restitution. A federal appeals court threw out the sentences last year, saying the trial court mistakenly based them on the full price of a guided hunt instead of the value of the animals taken.

KCP&L Dropping Solar Installer Following Audit Results

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Power & Light says a St. Joseph company is no longer part of its solar energy rebate program, saying some systems the company installed were smaller than promised. The utility said Monday an audit found numerous systems installed by U.S. Solar provided less power capacity than customers were promised. The company then allegedly overcharged those customers and collected more rebates than justified. The owner of U.S. Solar, Trevor Dryden, said the allegations are wrong. He said the company reduced the number of panels in some systems but larger panels provided the capacity that was promised. The Kansas City Star reports that KCP&L also said the Federal Bureau of Investigation had approached the utility about an investigation of U.S. Solar. The FBI refused to comment.

Youth Tennis Coach Pleads Guilty to Child Porn Charges

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A youth tennis coach from western Missouri has admitted soliciting nude photos from a minor after telling the girl he found her sexually interesting. The U.S. Attorney's office says 56-year-old Rex Haultain, of Parkville, pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in Kansas City, Kan., to one count of soliciting child pornography. A supervisor with an online high school contacted Overland Park police in August 2011 after the girl reported being sexually abused by her tennis coach. Haultain is scheduled to be sentenced October 28. Both sides in the case have agreed to recommend he serve between five and seven years in federal prison.


Chiefs' QB Alex Smith Getting First Reps of Training Camp

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Alex Smith started taking his first snaps of training camp as the quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs. Smith and the rest of the Chiefs quarterbacks reported to camp Tuesday on the campus of Missouri Western ahead of the veterans, who will report Thursday. The first full-squad practice is Friday. The Chiefs acquired Smith from the San Francisco 49ers this past offseason, reaching an agreement on a trade of draft picks even before the new league year began. Smith had flourished over the past two years, but was hurt last season and then lost his job to Colin Kaepernick. He watched from the sideline as Kaepernick led the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Now, he's the number-one quarterback for the Chiefs, with nobody looking over his shoulder.


Ex-NFL Player Larry Johnson Sentenced in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former NFL running back Larry Johnson has pleaded no contest in a domestic violence case involving an ex-girlfriend at a Las Vegas Strip resort. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the 33-year-old was found guilty Tuesday of misdemeanor domestic violence battery and assault. A felony charge was dropped as part of a plea deal. Johnson was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to pay a $345 fine. He must also perform 48 hours of community service and attend six months of counseling. Police arrested Johnson October 5 at a Bellagio hotel room amid allegations that he beat and strangled his ex-girlfriend. Johnson starred for the Kansas City Chiefs, but most recently played for the Miami Dolphins in 2011. He was arrested several times during his nine-year NFL career.



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